A few days ago, I interviewed University of Tennessee professor and poet Erin Smith about her long-running arts project, Sundress Publications.
She founded it in 1999 and has managed it out of Firefly Farms ever since. While such arts communities are not a strange formation to find in Knoxville or in other university towns, Erin Smith wants something more – an upcoming installation focused on breaching the schism between Knoxville's gay community in the university and outside it.
We live in a cultural zeitgeist that is being shorn of its homophobia. The arts have always been the vanguard of such movements, and Smith is going to be at the forefront of it.
OUTSpoken performances, including poetry and film, focus on the intersection of art and sexuality that are going to be made part of the publication's oeuvre.
It is going to be an effort toward the unification of a divided subject.
Knoxville's gay population is scattered insofar as its segments do not interact in many formal manners. Town does not meet with gown.
The university's gay population and the town's population can bridge together through art; the arts will be as diverse as its producers and consumers. Don't forget Knoxville can boast of the second largest writer's guild in the South, so its impulse for creativity is already massive.
The arts, of course, are not known for being a source of much wealth creation, especially in depressed economic climates like our own.
Hopefully OUTSpoken will see an audience as large as its ambition and professor Smith and her staff's efforts will be rewarded by recognition.
The importance of the arts coincides with the sociology of its consuming demographic – the gay community suffers from some of the highest rates of mental illness – as well as creativity. The arts bridge the gulf between performance and life, between recognition and the quietude of solitary existence.
The arts, we remind ourselves, are suffering not from lack of quality but from lack of funding. If you're compelled to partner with Smith, donations to Firefly Farms can be made by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of economic deprivation, you might also want to check out David Harvey's lecture series on Karl Marx's Capital.
The arts and economic philosophy go as well together as white and rice.
Before you graduate, you ought to at least have knowledge of the book that invented Marxism; I guarantee it will be making a comeback in the coming years as our generation discovers the carpet has been pulled out from under it.
May the arts help soothe that discovery.
Jeremy Brunger is a senior in English. He can be reached at email@example.com.